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Australia looking to jumpstart digital

Gov't sez new HDTV quota will boost equipment sales

SYDNEY — It’s been a long, slow march towards digital TV in Australia, but the government is hoping a high-definition programming quota that starts today will speed up the upgrade from analog.

The broadcasting industry estimates that there are just 82,000 terrestrial digital set-top boxes and integrated digital TVs in Australia, more than double the 35,000 at the end of 2002 but a tiny percentage of the nation’s 7.3 million TV homes. Pay TV platforms will introduce digital converters in the first quarter of 2004.

The new HDTV quota, which mandates broadcasters in capital cities to air 1,040 hours of high-def content per year, will boost equipment sales, according to Communications Minister Sen. Richard Alston. He said the government views this as a minimum level.

Commercial broadcasters are planning to shoot a number of series across various genres in HDTV, including dramas “Blue Heelers” and “McLeod’s Daughters” and chat show “The Panel.”

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